The Kapiti Challenge

From - "Stepping Up", by Stu Downs.

Chapter 11 – The Kapiti Challenge
If a man does his best, what else is there?
General George S. Patton (1885-1945)
For my 51st lap of the 'Akatarawa Loop' I would not be pacing myself, and nor would I be aiming at an overnight or extended multi-lap ride. No. This outing would be the second shortest event I would ever have taken part in, with the 95kms meaning that an all out effort was required just to stay with those I would start with. Nice timing therefore that in the midst of a high intensity event I would not only be feeling decidedly cooked, but also would be not too well. My tapering therefore would be 3 days in bed asleep leading up to the Sunday outing.

There is another factor that had concerned leading up to the event. Apart from several Round Taranaki's, this would be my first mass start for an event since Taupo 2006. Yeah, the less said the better, but the 6:11 left me feeling rather underwhelmed about the occasion, and to sum up feelings of that day I can only say that my collection of race bib numbers does not include the 2006 Taupo Solo race number. This exact comment was to Adrian McKenzie on the Saturday evening, while I was still feeling 50/50 about actually making the effort to registrator the following day. Adrian wanted to see if I would be interested in writing chalk messages on Paekakariki Hill. I declined, (although I think the idea rocks!!), and truth be known I was asleep by 8pm that evening. While this outing would have little real baring on my later events, the self confidence that is gained or lost via these kinds of rides is never to be underestimated.

Waking at 6:30am I thought it best to go for it, and by 7:30am I was on the road. On the way to the event I chatted with Miles Davies. We both down played our respective chances, with my comment being that I’d be happy with 3:30. Frankly, I didn’t know if I would make it up Paekakariki Hill if I was to take the climb with an all out effort. So I registered and formulated a game plan. Stick with a respectable group until Paekakariki Hill, then ride the hill at 90-92% maximum HR, then stay with a group along SH58 and Hayward's Hill at 90-92% again. Then same again for SH2 and the Aka's. The day more less went along these lines, but I would need to dig deeper than expected.

With a 'neutralised start' the entire 440 riders would need to ride the first 2kms at approx 20kms per hour, with the flag then dropping. This left me in the (rather sizable) leading group. Along SH1 between Waikanae and Kapiti we touched on 45kms per hour for some sections, with this being into a head wind. Then, while on the 2 small climbs that followed, I noticed that the group had split. I would later learn that the variance in time between the leaders and the sag wagon was a full 15 minutes by Kapiti. This was of no concern to me at this stage however, and it would be fair to say I was hanging onto the tail end of the group as we rode over the bridge heading into Kapiti.

On the climb up Paekakariki Hill. (Image remains the property of
Shortly after the Kapiti lights intersection the group split again. I had worked my way slightly up the group, and just as well too, as I now found myself second from front of a group that was now rapidly losing ground to the leaders. I knew I would lose ground on each of the hills, so I had to back myself now...or simply sit up as the rider in front of me had done. Passing those around me I pushed very hard and got to within 20 meters of the leading group. With a glance at my HR I noted it was on 99% max, and reminded myself that this was only the second time I had ever had it this high.

No giving up now though. I got out of the saddle and went for it. No one had followed me, so I knew I wasn’t dragging anyone else through with me. In short, my efforts would benefit me alone and in a way this spurred me on. Reaching the leading group I enjoyed a brief reprieve. Then, in the moments to follow I remembered why I love cycling so much. Like seeing a long lost love for the first time in a long time I felt filled a swell of happiness. Cycling can be a love hate relationship at times. In my experience those events that you look back on the most fondly are those you suffered the most during. The discomfort on this outing was unique however. I have a 5 week break after the Graperide 'Ultimate' and relished the opportunity simply live in the moment of cycling. It was like a stolen handheld walk.

MacKay’s Crossing came and went, and about 500 meters before Paekakariki Hill I eased up slightly and my HR fell to 90%. This was my target HR for the hill. Knowing that I’d be caught by the chasing group, I felt relieved I had made the extra effort to stay with the leaders, as I’d get to the summit feeling better than many of those around me and I could push on if need be. This ended up being the case, with me giving extra effort over the top and down the initial descent. The ascent however will be remembered for my resentment of those who passed me. I hate being passed on hills. Something about it is just not right. Each person who passed me was a reminder of my need to improve my power to weight ratio. (This will be addressed after the Graperide Ultimate).

Something else happened as I crossed the summit and started my first descent of the day. I had James Blunt's 'Tears and Rain' start going through my head. Now, if it had not started raining several minutes later that probably would have been the end of it, but with heavy rain the song just went over and over...and over. So it was, descending in a group growing rapidly in both size and speed, I would have a smile from ear to ear feeling the rain fall around us. To cycle in the rain is a treasured privilege and while many do not see this, few would argue that we were all at one with the world during much of the remainder of our outing. Oddly, I never had a feeling of getting wet from the rain...simply of being in it.

On the descent down from the Aka's summit. (Images remain the property of
The paced eased off slightly along SH58 and the reprieve increased our groups numbers. The following hill (yep the Hayward’s) saw most of my group break away from me. My new group of 5 was now looking to make the most of the situation, now heading north, along SH2. We couldn’t have done too badly though, as we had a group of about 8 just behind us at the bottom of the Hayward’s Hill and we weren’t caught until the turnoff for the Aka's climb.

Through the Aka's the game plan was to hold 87-88% max HR throughout the climb, and if this meant I was passed by others then so be it. I have tried to hold 90% a couple of times, but this left me blowing up 10/12 minutes from the summit each time, with my eventual overall being longer. Finally then I would get to chat to people and the interaction made a pleasant changed from simply watching the wheel of the bike in front of me. Scott Turner (from 805's) commented that he was starting to get cramp. I gave him some of my remaining (Hammer) Endurolyte tablets and he said they helped.

I can also attest to the tablets working. With the descent over I had just a single small climb and then a tailwind to the finish. I gave the hill heaps...and cramped. Bugger. I was passed by about 4 riders and finished the remaining tablets. Things came right pretty quickly, and I then sat on 45-48kms until the finish.

Finishing in a time of 3:11, I was placed 170th of the 440 starters, and 67th of approx 125 starters in my category. Not bad for someone who has been rundown and felt fairly cooked leading up to the ride. I can honestly say that I would have been hard pressed to get a faster time. Everything was ridden as well as could have been. A positive day it was then, with a better ride for similar terrain if I lose 4-5kg, so this is a plan post-Graperide. Man I hate being passed on climbs...

"The Cutoff" - 9am Saturday 4 April (If Lap 5 is not started, then i'm eliminated from the Graperide).

Finally then, with 12 days to go before the Graperide, I remembered that I truly love my sport. Not because of my times or placings. But through the suffering and struggling, and sometimes trying to recall why I bother at all, I am reminded that I am at my most centered while on my bike. Cycling is my drug of choice. If this is my lot then I look forward to the road ahead, with sunrises while climbing Kuratau, sunsets through the Akatarawa's, and family holidays planned around yearly campaigns to Taupo and the Graperide. Most of all I look forward to starting the 'last lap' alongside those who are starting their first. If you know of a better life...then send me a postcard.

"Tears And Rain" (By James Blunt)
How I wish I could surrender my soul; Shed the clothes that become my skin; See the liar that burns within my needing. How I wish I'd chosen darkness from cold. How I wish I had screamed out loud, Instead I've found no meaning.

I guess it's time I run far, far away; find comfort in pain, All pleasure's the same: it just keeps me from trouble. Hides my true shape, like Dorian Gray. I've heard what they say, but I'm not here for trouble. It's more than just words: it's just tears and rain.

How I wish I could walk through the doors of my mind; Hold memory close at hand, Help me understand the years. How I wish I could choose between Heaven and Hell. How I wish I would save my soul. I'm so cold from fear.

I guess it's time I run far, far away; find comfort in pain, All pleasure's the same: it just keeps me from trouble. Hides my true shape, like Dorian Gray. I've heard what they say, but I'm not here for trouble. Far, far away; find comfort in pain. All pleasure's the same: it just keeps me from trouble. It's more than just words: it's just tears and rain.

Tears and Rain.

Tears and Rain.

Far, far away; find comfort in pain, All pleasure's the same: it just keeps me from trouble. It's more than just words: it's just tears and rain.

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